Friday, 4 September 2020

CRS SCJ: An Entirely Avoidable Conundrum —by Eyo O. Ekpo

4 September 2020 

Who is the Acting Chief Judge of Cross River State? The answer involves unraveling an entirely avoidable conundrum. The previous holder of the office, unless the NJC gives a very special dispensation (for which it must give unassailable reasons...which I dare say do not exist), should have vacated that office yesterday. If there is any atom of decency left in all the antagonists  directly involved in this farce that borders on tragedy, the previous officeholder has no business going back to there.

If established tradition and practice, and strict seniority is followed, the next person to take office should be Justice Eyo Ita; and the next most senior Judge after him, as I'm told, would be Justice Franca Isoni. I will be very surprised if either of these two Judges (both of whom are well known to be of sterling character and totally apolitical) agree to drink from a poisoned chalice and allow themselves to be sworn-in to succeed the ambitious interloper who should have gone away by now. 

As of today, no upright Judge of the High Court of Cross River State should be willing to be an Acting Chief Judge. Why? Simple. There is no need for an Acting Chief Judge. If seniority is the yardstick for offering the Acting CJ-ship to any of State High Court Judge, why do so and thereby continue this charade of an endless merry go round? Why not follow the unambiguous letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution, allow good conscience to reign and remove that despicable obstacle erected to block Justice Akon Ikpeme, the most senior Judge in Cross River State and the ONLY person today rightly and constitutionally entitled to be CJ of Cross River State? Why not do the right thing and complete the process of Justice Akon Ikpeme becoming the Chief Judge of the State? 

Let us face up to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Justice Akon Ikpeme has "committed" only one "offence". It is not that she is from Akwa Ibom State. It is not that she is female. It is not that she is not eminently qualified. It is not that she is not the most senior Judge in Cross River State. No, none of the above. Her offence is simply that she did not go and pay homage to the Governor and our chicken-chomping Co-Governor. 

The problem is that Justice Akon Ikpeme has not pleaded for admission into their ego-tripping political circle. It is not clear to the powers that be that when come comes to become she will play ball with them. Therefore, block her path of progress and deserved achievement. However, there is now uncomfortable silence emanating from the Judiciary HQ and from Government House, Calabar. 

I hope the silence indicates that the National Judicial Council cannot continue to be an accomplice in traducing justice and bringing the Judiciary into further disrepute and subservience. I hope it indicates that no other Judge in the State is willing to sit on top of the smelly rubbish bin that is the chair of the "Acting Chief Judge of Cross River State". I hope it indicates that those who think they know it all are in fact bereft of further schemes to play. What is the next move they will try? We watch and we wait. 

May confusion continue to reign in the camp of the wicked until the right thing is done.

Eyo O. Ekpo is a former Commissioner of Justice in Cross River state. 

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